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Judith in the Tent of Holofernes

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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When her hometown of Bethulia was besieged by Assyrian forces, Judith infiltrated the enemy camp. She gained entry to the tent of the Assyrian general Holofernes, and when he was drunk after a banquet she seized his sword and cut off his head.

Here she places Holofernes‘ head into a sack held open by her maid. Her gaze is steely and resolute as she turns to look at the viewer, but her cheeks are flushed, her skin shiny with sweat and her fleshy lips glossy. Meanwhile, it’s impossible to avoid the streams of blood gushing from Holofernes’ mutilated neck.

The drama of the composition, the powerful gestures and the use of strong contrasts of light and shade are typical of the Baroque period and particularly reflect the work of the Italian painter Caravaggio, whose paintings Liss must have seen while he was in Rome in the 1620s.

The National Gallery, London



Judith in the Tent of Holofernes


about 1622


Oil on canvas


H 128.5 x W 99 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Presented by James W. Dollar, 1931

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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